That Mario’s always been a bit of a shady character.
He grabs every coin he sees. He sacrifices Yoshi to get a few extra feet of air. He shows up to exotic locations impersonating a plumber, fixing nary a drainage leak, like some ’70s porn star interested in cleaning a different set of pipes.
According to canon, the Mario universe contains black magic. Koopas used this sorcery to turn Mushroom People into bricks and plants in the very first Super Mario Bros. Despite Peach being able to transmute them back into intelligent fungi folk, who is it who heartlessly breaks through every brick for a small reward? Yep. Mario.
In Super Mario Odyssey, all these years later, Mario has the ability to possess enemies. With a deft toss of his new demonic friend Cappy, he’s able to rob any being of their faculties. What sort of occult ritual enables this, no doubt aided by oversized, spotted mushrooms, we’re not sure. Nintendo has attempted to rebrand it as “capturing,” but we’re not fooled.
Um, actually he's been "Captured" by Mario. https://t.co/RNqL1SqAGl
— Nintendo of America (@NintendoAmerica) June 21, 2017
Despite its innocent presentation, this seems like Mario’s most problematic behaviour yet. Sinister, even. Is serial possession an ethical means to rectify a kidnapping? What of escalation? What of free will? What of forcing enemies to watch as you use their body as a puppet to murder their friends?
We are going to have to figure out how to complete the game without compromising our souls.
How Feasible is an Ethical Run?
It’s not always easy to do the right thing in life, and it looks like beating Mario Odyssey the easy way is also the most unethical. Shortly after the game came out, we didn’t find any examples of streamers or Youtubers attempting to win without possessions, but in the last year or so, No Capture Runs have become a thing. As well as a bonkers run without jumping.
The Captureless runs are actually a bit harder than what we need — they count inanimate objects too. We don’t need to do anything that hard. So how do we beat it in an ethical way?
Some bosses in the game require players to possess an enemy and use their abilities. But it’s not necessary to beat all these bosses — all we need is a certain amount of moons to progress through the levels.
We can still possess inanimate objects, such as the electric wires that take you to the top of New Donk City. But if we’re to keep the run ethical, we need to avoid intentionally killing enemies.
There are also a few tech jumps that can help us get to those hard-to-reach places, otherwise only accessible by possessing. Cappy won’t be taking control of any bodies, but he can still assist us with extra height and length on our jumps.
If we get stuck, there’s always the option of grinding for some gold coins and buying a moon from the store. It’s boring, but hey — sometimes doing the right thing isn’t exciting.
We’re sure there’ll still be a few headscratcher moments – especially possessing Bowser at the end – but we’ll cross those ethical bridges when we come to them.
Attempting the First Ethical Run
To attempt the Ethical Run, we had to lay out a few ground rules:
- No possessions of beings with free will, unless absolutely necessary
- Possessions of inanimate objects are okay (toy trucks, electric wires)
- Killing enemies must also be kept to a minimum, and only in self defence situations
We don’t know if it’s a blessing or a curse, but Mario Odyssey has frontloaded its hardest tech jumps right at the beginning. We’re talking the highest jump we’ll need to perform in the whole run, before we even leave the tutorial. It’s a proper baptism of fire.
You might fondly remember those cute frogs in that tutorial. But beating it without them? It’s no joke:
Right after that, your first moon is locked in a rock, which you’re supposed to break with a Big Chain Chomp. Even getting across the river is hard:
After which, the only way to get the moon is by clipping through the floor, and then swimming over so that half of Mario’s body is inside the map, and half is below. This makes sure we’re still clipping. But due to some funny camera quirks, you effectively have to do part of it blind.
It’s about here that we had to make some tough decisions. There are some moons that can be collected without possessions, as long as you have the skills of a Mario Odyssey speedrunner. We’re not willing to put thousands of hours in, because frankly, we’re not that committed to the gag.
Then It Gets Easy
After that, Mario Odyssey becomes surprisingly easy to get through without possessing anything. We breezed through the Sand Kingdom and Lake Kingdom. Most moons were easy to jump to, and we didn’t even need to resort to buying any.
Certain sections required us to think differently. Remember those Bullet Bill sequences? Imagine getting through all of them with raw Mario traversal.
Far from being a chore, it turned into a highly enjoyable challenge run. It’s like discovering Mario Odyssey all over again. Who knew being ethical would make us feel good? Bonus!
Ethics is… Fun?
Right up until you’re forced to possess Bowser to get out of the final level, this way of playing provides interesting – but not impossible – challenges. The difficulty is lopsided, and it’s nowhere near as perfect as, say, the Level 1 runs from Dark Souls.
But we’ll say this about the Ethical Run. It makes you think about Mario Odyssey in a way that makes it much more fun. The same could probably be said for any challenge run that forces you to learn Cappy’s tech jumps, because once you start, you can’t stop. In our best “Hey there, fellow kids” voice, we’re ready to loudly proclaim that it’s fun to be ethical.
Heck, we even started exploring areas we didn’t need to, just to see if there was anything there. In a lot of hard-to-reach places, you’ll discover a gold cache, or something just to let you know Nintendo intentionally made that jump possible. Other times, you’ll solve a jumping puzzle and find yourself stranded…
On a meta level though, perhaps we’re guilty of the same thing Cappy is — we possess Mario, forcing him to leap and dance for our entertainment. Picking up the controller enters us into the ethical quagmire of robbing free will, on both a surface and meta level. Je suis Cappy, for we are no better.
We almost feel guilty for accidentally finding a more fun way to play the game in our quest to beat it ethically. Instant karma, perhaps? But we’ll still be sure to look down our noses at those who completed the game normally from now on.